Time Management for Language Learning

Hello everyone, there have been a number of people asking me how I find time for my language learning, because I am learning two languages at once (Mandarin and Spanish, although my Spanish is a lot more advanced than my mandarin).

This just got me thinking, what are some of your ways of managing your time for language learning? And what are some of the biggest obstacles that you face, even if you are only focusing on one language?

This would be interesting to share with my friends and others who seem to have an issue with this

Time management: If something is important for you, you’ll find the time.

Biggest obstacle: Finding a block of uninterrupted time alone. Solution: Occupy wife with task (preferably outside of the house), walk dog til he’s tired

Hey spatterson, thanks for your reply

I am also interested in how others manage their time because I think with 8-10 h of work and real life it is hard to find the time.

I am learning also two languages at the moment.
Spanish (quite good) and czech. As for time management I try to move as much learning as I can to the mobile phone (anki, linq, tumblr, movies, tv apps etc.) So I can make the most out of idle times. The only time I spend in front of a computer is in the morning before work where I have an hour or so of uninterrupted time.

@spatterson "Occupy wife with task (preferably outside of the house), walk dog til he’s tired.

The reverse works, too (though it requires a change of pronoun).


I plan at least an hour a day per language on the computer (or iPod) seven days a week. If the language has sufficient audio, then I try very hard to reach the suggested goal of 0.8 hours a day in addition to the hour on the computer. Most listening occurs while I’m driving, doing household tasks, walking and so on.

I’ve been doing the same thing you’ve been doing. I listen to both of my languages an hour or at the minimum 30 minutes per day. I listen when I play video games for some passive listening, then go onto the interweb for some active listen, active vocab learning, and reading. Listen some more before falling asleep. I mainly get really started in noon and the evening, which is from 12 an till about night with some breaks in between.

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As someone above said, just decide how important it is and you will find a way.

Personally I like to take 15 minutes to keep a journal (in my L1) first thing every morning to reassess and (usually reaffirm) what I am doing and why. The rest takes care of itself.

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This is a really useful question. I definitely agree with the comments, but I think efficiency is as important as time. The more efficient your approach is the less time you need.

Besides I can mention only a supplementary method. I try to harness the sleeping time, actually. I listen to my audios not before falling asleep but while sleeping. I start with a short guided meditation in the second language just for deeper relaxation, afterwards my sell phone plays automatically something for a while that I have been learning before.

A supposedly fresh research of Chicago Northwestern University says that our brain can not learn new information but can deepen the formerly learnt things during our first sleeping period by listening. I do not know. Maybe. What do you think?

I have long wondered if listening while asleep is a good activity. I have no idea. It certainly could be.

I´ve been listening to English to fall asleep for the last 3 or 4 years. Nothing magical has happened yet.

Well… if you watch American reality TV you’ll find you fall asleep faster. That seems pretty magical

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I listen to German a lot when I go to bed, but that’s because I usually need several hours to fall asleep and find listening to an audiobook or a podcast helpful.

Bad news. Although in this statement the point is to repeat the same thing that you have been learning consciously.

Here is an interesting article on the memory reactivation during sleep study. Subjects learned to play two melodies on a computer keyboard. One was presented later during a nap producing a relative improvement in performance:


These are some interesting comments everyone! One thing that I do is try to make the foreign as much as part of my regular life as possible, of course this is a lot easier to do when you have at least an intermediate level of understanding in the language. But I do things like look up articles that I would want to read in English in Spanish instead, I changed the language on my cell phone to Spanish, and sometimes when I call an automated service and they prompt you to choose English or Spanish I choose Spanish haha (Although this has worked out against me before, but I really want to learn so I’m willing to do it).

And for my Chinese, because some of these things are too advanced (Like changing the language of my cell phone to Chinese - That would be crazy!) I try to take as many of my daily thoughts as I can and translate them from English to Mandarin in my head

This makes it seem like you are not taking time away from other daily activities so that you can study, because your studying actually involves doing your daily activities

To me, the two hrs from 8 to 10pm every evening are what really matters. I made a decision to not having a TV at home 3 years ago when I moved in. That means I have 2 more hrs per day than an average person, and I simply use those hrs to devote to my things, such as languages, reading, sometimes a bit more work (I’m running an internet start-up). There are times that I need to do other things without studying, sometimes that can last a week, but in general I rarely find myself in short of time.